Volume 18 Number 74
                       Produced: Sun Mar  5  1:29:05 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Changing the Role of Women/Suffering Because of Halachah
         [Esther R Posen]
         [Moishe Kimelman]
How women should open zimun
         [Micha Berger]
Women and Megillah
         [Eli Passow]
Women's Roles
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Womens Roles in Judaism
         [Moshe Friederwitzer]


From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 13:49:33 -0500
Subject: Changing the Role of Women/Suffering Because of Halachah

I was reluctant to enter the latest addition of the "It's Not Fair Women
Are Discriminated Against In Judaism" debate, however, I think some
important points need to be made.

1) G-d decides who suffers the most because of halacha.  One doesn't get
to volunteer or to decline any such distinction.  In fact, one doesn't
get to decide who suffers the "most" altogether.  Halacha is often
sensitive to "suffering" but not necessarily emotional suffering because
one cannot be a chazanit for the kehilla.

2) Minhag Yisroel K'din Hu - If for generations THE MAJORITY OF JEWISH
WOMEN conducted themselves in a certain "pious" way we must approach
innovations in "minhag" exceedingly carefully, even more so
"innovations" in halacha.

3) Aliza Berger (and her supporters) have suggested innovations which
would certainly make me go daven elsewhere (which is fine - it's a free
country).  Certainly my husband would rather daven at home than in any
place that would practice these actual and proposed innovation.
Frankly, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable at a Shabbos Seudah which
had an adult male present and an adult female made the kiddush or the
motzei.  I have no such mesorah and no need to find my fullfillment by
making kiddush - for me, it just not where it's at.  I find the whole
thing most pathetic.

(I would not feel comfortable either at a meal where one very pregnant
woman served a number of men and none of them would move a finger to
help her.  On the other hand I've had "feminist" guests who were very
disdainful of my doing the serving mostly on my own.  The fact that my
husband had done half the cooking, all the shopping, all the shlepping
and was holding the baby throughout the entire meal didn't mean very
much to them.)

What seems to be the goal here is to "create" a system wherein halachah
would be more or less respected but some concessions would be made to
the needs of the "modern" woman to participate in communal religous
activities. Understand that many orthodox men and women don't feel these
changes need to be made.  Firstly, because they are not experiencing
"psychic pain" and secondly because they are genreally against
"innovation" in halacha.  If a bunch of women want to get together (with
or without their male significant others) and "do things differently"
noone can stop them, however, they are unlikely to get endorsements from
the vast majority of rabbonim that I know about. Thats life.

Our religion is not egalatarian.  I can understand the pain of women who
don't feel there is enough of a role for them in traditional judaism.  I
understand their pain, I just think that the society in which we all
find ourselves have caused them to "miss the boat".

Esther Posen


From: <kimel@...> (Moishe Kimelman)
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 1995 13:13:02 +1100
Subject: Feminism

In # 62  Chana Luntz writes in reply to a post of mine:

>How do you know how the wives of our Gedolim of earlier generations felt?
>It is an interesting question.  Because we don't know a lot about them 
>and how they felt.

True, we don't, but the question is not only how they felt, but how they 
acted on their feelings, and the results.

Let's assume the "worst", that the wives of the Vilna Gaon and the
Chofets Chaim were upset at their roles as behind-the-scenes housewives
who were constantly overshadowed by their husbands.  Let's also assume
that they argued vehemently with their husbands for the right to change
their "designated" roles.  What happened?  Obviously nothing at all.
The fact remains that we know that the Vilna Gaon and the Chofets Chaim
had wives who supported their husbands, but we know next to nothing of
their personal achievements and aspirations.  Now taking the two
extremes, either these nashim tzidkaniyot (righteous women) were
satisfied with their roles, or their husbands - both of whom were
innovators par excellence, and who could not be accused of bowing to the
expectations of a myopic society - "overruled" their wives aspirations
and ruled that they were out of place, and that they should be happy
with their lot.

Do we now accuse the Vilna Gaon and Chofets Chaim of possible sexism?
It seems to me that if we consider these "super-gedolim" as tzaddikim
gemurim (absolutely righteous) whose piety and personal refinement were
beyond question , then we must conclude that they favored the lifestyle
where women took an active but hidden-from-view exclusively-feminine
role in the frum Jewish community.

I am of course assuming that Ms. Luntz and all the others who have
argued for change in the way the Torah-community views women's roles
concur with my view on the Vilna Gaon and the Chofets Chaim.  At any
rate, those who do not would be unlikely to be successful in enlisting
the support of those who do, in their quest for "reform".

>Two pieces of information that I happen to know:
>1) when I was at Harvard (1992/1993) a friend of mine there was reading
>a book that was a biography/autobiography of I think it was the Epstein
>family, i don't remember the details. And in the book there are long and
>extensive discussion with one of the women of the household (at least
>either the mother of a gadol, a wife of one, or the daughter of one I
>think,) about how she felt about the women's role.

I think the reference may be to "My Uncle the Netziv" (the book can be
bought at Gold's), where the author of Torah Temimah writes about a
female relative of his who was well-versed in gemara and other sources.
Once again, however, she remained the housewife, and her husband was the

>2) the second bit of information - 

 (stuff deleted)

>when she was young, in Europe, she was the
>one always arguing with her father (also a famous Rav) about learning
>gemorra and doing things with the boy of the family.
>And yet of all the sisters, she is the one who had a Talmid Chacham for a 

I assume you mean that she argued with her father when she was unmarried
and living at home, but what happened when she was older?  Did she in
fact achieve her aim of learning gemara together with (or even
separately from) the boy of the family?  Perhaps she merited having a
Talmid Chacham for a son precisely because she eventually accepted her
role as a "bat melech pnima" (princess hidden from view) and subjugated
her desire to be like her brother.  (See Yoma 47a where Kimchis was the
mother of seven sons who served as Kohanim Gedolim - head priests - due
to her exceprtional tzniut - modesty.  Rashi quotes the Yerushalmi which
attributes to her the passuk "... bat melech pnimah", albeit in a
different context to the one I used above.)


From: Micha Berger <berger@...>
Date: Thu, 02 Mar 95 07:46:12 -0500
Subject: How women should open zimun

I don't understand the question. Growing up, most benchers read
"Rabosai mir velen bentchen!" (Rabbis, I will bench) Now that Yiddish
is losing popularity, the Hebrew "Rabosai Nevareich" (Rabbis, let us
bench) is more common. The words don't even mean the same thing.

The point is to open with something that acknowledges that they
appointed you as a representative. Clearly no liturgy was formalized.

There is nothing stopping you from oppening up the zimun with the
English "Let's bench", or, if you want to convey the respect implied
in the other openings, pick something more formal.

Later, when you ask their permission to lead the benching -- "Birshus
..... nevareich sha'achalnu mishelo" (with the permission of [the
Rabbis, my teachers, the kohanim, whatever] let us bless He from Whose
we havce eaten) the words outside the ellipses are gender
neutral. Perhaps this was intentional, since the authors knew women
would be using it.

Remember that you need ask permission not only from those women wiser
and older than you, but also the wife and unmarried daughter of a kohen.

Micha Berger                     Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3054 days!
<berger@...>  212 224-4937             (16-Oct-86 - 1 -Mar-95)
<aishdas@...>  201 916-0287
<a href=http://www.iia.org/~aishdas>AishDas Society's Home Page</a>


From: Eli Passow <passow@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 15:38:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Women and Megillah

   As we approach Purim, I began to wonder why there is still a good
deal of opposition to women's megilla groups. Most of the rishonim hold
that not only are women allowed to read the megilla for themselves as
individuals, but they may also read it for other women and even for
men. See Rashi, Arakhin, 3a, Shulhan Aruch, Orech Hayim, 689, paragraph
2, Rambam, all of whom say that women can read for men. (As an aside,
notice, that none of them seems to worry about kol isha.) The Shulhan
Aruch does mention that there are some who say (yesh omerim) that women
cannot fulfill the obligation for men, but this opinion seems to be
based upon a faulty Tosefta, which states that women are not obligated
to hear the megilla at all, which is a direct contradiction of the
mishna. (Both the Rashba and the Vilna Gaon point out the error in the

   It seems clear from the above that women who want to be active
participants in the reading of the megilla certainly have excellent
sources to rely upon. And yet, there are numerous Orthodox rabbis who
refuse to permit women's megilla readings to take place in the shuls in
which they serve. In my community in suburban Philadelphia, for example,
there has been an on-going women's megilla reading (on Purim morning
only) for many years, but it has never taken place in the
synagogue. Moreover, a result of this reading is that many women who
formerly did not hear the megilla in the morning (since the minyan in
the shul takes place at 6 A.M.), now fulfill the mitzva of hearing the
megilla twice, as they should. Finally, the women's morning reading is
taken much more seriously than the hurried reading in shul. It is
preceded by a Dvar Torah, the reading is slow and careful, and it is
followed by a seudah (festive meal).

   I would like to hear from others on this topic. Can anyone think of a
good reason why such a reading shouldn't take place?

		Eli Passow


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 20:31:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Women's Roles

Smadar Kedar writes:
>This motivation carries over mistaken notions from secular public
>life (that your self-esteem and importance is measured by your public

I am sorry if my point was not clear.  I expressed a different
motivation, the desire to make the best of individual talents, but
somehow (was it cognitively simpler to add it to a known category?) it
got lumped it into the dreaded category "wants public role".

An example of individual talents: Recently there was a thread on this
list where people requested information about volunteer activities which
could use their unique talents.  A combination of a desire to serve the
community and a desire for greater personal fulfillment is likely the
motivation for seeking such volunteer activities. As one person wrote,
(paraphrase) "I could be of better use than serving food by using my
computer skills".

>Simply put, we as women do not want to have the same role as men.  We
>have our own satisfying role as private and family people.  We are not
>looking enviously over the Mechitza at how men get aliyot, leyn, and we
>don't.  We see it as a male need for public recognition that we don't
>need, and that is freeing.  Our energy and effort is therefore directed
>towards charity, hospitality, teaching and learning, and so on.

If the shul is set up properly (mechitza down the middle, bimah all the
way down front) no need to look over. (I know the comment was meant
figuratively, but i could not resist that.)

I thought both men and women were obligated in charity, hospitality,
teaching, and learning (I'm not sure whether the reference was to
teaching and learning at home or in the public sphere; it doesn't really
matter.) Are you saying men are less so?

>My question to the women is: why put your effort to this, when there are
>so many other important things you can do as an orthodox woman?  Why do
>you measure your religious importance by the level of public influence?

The activities I discussed (reading Torah and leading services) don't
exactly lead to public influence. They get you a "yasher koach" (or
"kokhachech" for a woman) ["good job"] and that's about it.  On the
other hand, where public influence really happens in the Jewish world is
the rabbis,judges, and people with money.  I'd say that these groups are
the ones who really have public influence. And I see nothing wrong with
individual women wanting to use their special talents (whatever the
individual's might be ) to influence the public toward good things. Thus
the exclusion of women from judgeship and the rabbinate is much more
frustrating than exclusion from leading public worship. It's not a
matter of feeling important, it's a matter of trying to help the
community by using one's own best abilities.

Some people are better at home stuff (men too), some people are better
at public stuff. I argue that this is all an individual thing, not

aliza berger


From: <martin.friederwitzer@...> (Moshe Friederwitzer)
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 95 10:12:51 EST
Subject: Womens Roles in Judaism

Rabbi Avi Shafran who is the director of Public Affairs for the Agudath
Israel wrote IMHO an excellent article on the subject. The article
appeared in the February 9, issue of The Jewish Ledger on page 26. The
articles title is Answering Judaism's Role-Call. He concludes the article
by writing "pretending that we are someone other than who we are can be
amusing, even-- at least for a while--personally gratifying. But there
comes a time when each of us needs to stop playing games and answer life's
role call." He feels that Halacha's limitation of womens roles is largely
misunderstood and regularly misrepresented. Kol Toov Moishe Friederwitzer


End of Volume 18 Issue 74